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Faces on Faith: Cherry pie and ashes

By Staff | Feb 11, 2015

When I was a boy, my mother turned most every holiday into a special occasion.

In those pre-President’s Day days, that meant that February was a real bonus month. Ground Hog Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Valentine’s Day, Washington’s Birthday, my father’s birthday – and most years, Ash Wednesday.

A plethora of special days!

We’d anxiously wait for word from Paxatawny Phil as we shivered in the cold days of a New Hampshire winter. On Lincoln’s Birthday we’d be reminded of the stirring words of the Gettysburg Address.

Valentine’s Day meant the special construction paper covered box Mother had made sat on the dining room table to collect our Valentine’s for one another.

Washington’s Birthday always meant cherry pie.

Dad’s birthday meant a delicious cake covered with candles. All in all a great month!

But Ash Wednesday.

It never quite fit in with all the rest. I was raised in a parsonage, so we went to church frequently.

Sundays meant worship and church school. And during the week, we often got dragged to pot luck suppers, special programs and services, and youth group when we got older.

But Ash Wednesday never quite fit in with our sacred routine.

And maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. It is, after all, a rather sobering reminder of our mortality. The words are potent.

“From dust you have come, to dust you shall return.”

And that smudge on your foreheadpowerful!

Even as an adult, I find Ash Wednesday rather awkward. We observe it at my church.

We use ashes – though many folks don’t come forward to receive them – it is strictly optional in our tradition. For some it’s an important ritual.

For others, it is meaningless at best.

Attendance is never very high for the service. I’m not complaining. Just reflecting.

We really don’t like to be reminded of our mortality. We really don’t like being reminded of our limitations, our imperfections. But we need to be.

Or at least I do. I need to remember life’s not all cherry pie and cake and candles and stirring words and cute rodents and love notes made out of construction paper.

That doesn’t mean I need to wallow in the ashes. But I do need to remember, my time is limited, my abilities are limited.

But with God’s help, I can indeed make a difference in a world filled with sobering realities.